Simeon stays focused on state with big win over St. Rita

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All around the area Friday night, high school basketball teams raised sectional trophies and cut down nets. That’s the typical pomp and celebration that happens after a school wins a sectional. That’s not what happened in Blue Island.

Simeon knocked off St. Rita, 74-70, to win the Class 4A Eisenhower Sectional. After the handshake line the Wolverines headed to the locker room. They had to be called back to get their trophy and no nets were severed.

“Nothing is over yet,” Simeon senior Isaiah Moss said. “We didn’t even get to state yet.”

That’s the standard at Simeon, not just getting to but winning state. The Wolverines have a long way to go still this season but dispatching the Mustangs, who defeated them in December, is a major step.

As in the first meeting, St. Rita (26-4) focused on containing All-Area star Ed Morrow. The Mustangs managed that, but Illinois recruit DJ Williams and Iowa recruit Isaiah Moss made them pay.

“We knew they would key on Ed so we told the wings to attack the rim,” Simeon coach Robert Smith said. “They had to give up something.”

Moss led the way for Simeon (28-3) with 19 points and five rebounds. He shot 8-for-12 from the field and found his way to the basket for several momentum-killing fastbreak dunks.

Williams scored 16 points and grabbed seven boards. He shot 4-for-14, but his aggression was key for Simeon in the first half. Morrow had 11 points and nine rebounds.

“We stopped Morrow,” St. Rita coach Gary DeCesare said. “But the other guys stepped up. You have to pick your poison.”

Zack Norvell scored 16 points for the Wolverines. A spectacular sequence from Norvell ended the first half. He drained a 3-pointer with four seconds to play, then stole the inbounds pass and managed to make a jumper while falling to the floor. Five points in four seconds.

Simeon led by five after three quarters. St. Rita’s Kain Harris, a Tulane recruit, scored with 27 seconds left to pull the Mustangs within 71-68. The Wolverines shot 3-for-6 from the free-throw line from then on. Just good enough to win.

Kentucky recruit Charles Matthews led St. Rita with 26 points and six rebounds. Tennessee State recruit Armani Chaney added 16 points and six assists, and Harris finished with 12 points for the Mustangs.

The game was a slog, despite the dozen or more future college players that saw the floor. The teams combined to shoot 62 free throws.

Simeon will face Normal in the ISU Supersectional on Tuesday. Don’t expect the Wolverines to celebrate all that much if they win that game either.

“Nothing is finished until you win the state title,” Smith said. “We know that.”

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